Mollie Tibbetts murder suspect told police he'd seen her before

Mollie Tibbetts murder suspect charged

The man suspected of killing Iowa college student Mollie Tibbetts and hiding her body in a cornfield is due in court Wednesday. Cristhian Bahena Rivera, 24, an undocumented immigrant who lived near Tibbetts, is charged with first-degree murder and is being held on $1 million bond. The 20-year-old disappeared July 18 while out for a jog in her hometown of Brooklyn, Iowa. 

The search for Tibbetts came to a somber end Tuesday about 12 miles from where she went missing. Investigators had been searching the area where she was found for weeks but, according to Rick Rahn, special agent in charge at the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, corn stalks were placed on top of the body believed to be Tibbetts. Police didn't definitively say Rivera and Tibbetts were strangers.

"He tells us that he had seen her before but beyond that, I can't tell you any more," said Rahn.

Police sifted through more than 4,000 tips but say the big break came over a week ago when investigators obtained surveillance video of Tibbetts jogging and noticed a black Chevy Malibu following her. Police traced the car to Rivera and brought him in for questioning on Monday.

"He tells us that he sees Mollie running. …He actually tells us that he ran along side of her or behind her," Rahn said. "She took off running. He in turn chased her down. And then he tells us that at some point in time he blacks out."

Rivera says Tibbetts threatened to call police. In an affidavit, police say Rivera told them when he "came to" he found Tibbetts' body in his trunk and "noticed blood on the side of her head." He "dragged Tibbetts on foot … to a secluded location in a cornfield." After the interview, police say, Rivera guided them to her location "from memory."

Tuesday night at a rally in West Virginia, President Trump suggested the murder could have been prevented.

"You heard about today, with the illegal alien coming in, very sadly, from Mexico, and you saw what happened to that incredible, beautiful, young woman. Should have never happened," Mr. Trump said.

Rivera – who's lived in the area between four and seven years – worked at a nearby dairy farm, owned by the family of local Republican leader Craig Lang. In a statement, the farm said Rivera passed a government screening that made him eligible to work. If convicted, Rivera faces life in prison without parole.